Despite growing up atheist to two religiously-raised parents who never minced words about the existence of God, religion was always present in my childhood. When my turn came for my pious aunt to secretly baptise me as a baby, it probably imbued me with the Catholic guilt that still plagues my mistakes. When I was a child we regularly visited an aunt, once a strict Carmelite Nun, at her walled-off convent where we chatted through a grill and received ice-creams via a small compartment, like in an old bank. Then in later years there were exotic Catholic funerals with Latin prayers, swinging incense censers and a priest wearing Warehouse-bought British sneakers with his formal vestments. Despite my skepticism towards an omniscient being, I’ve still respected these ceremonies and symbols that made my atheist upbringing look austere in comparison, and generally disdained when Grammar school classmates mocked religion to prove their newfound Dawkinsian logical genius.
This August I spent two weeks travelling through Israel during a meltingly hot summer. Aside from visiting holy sites in Jerusalem, partying in Tel-Aviv, worshipping air conditioners and chowing down on pita and hummus, five of my days were spent in Palestine’s West Bank. While the intention of this piece is not to apportion blame to only one side in the longstanding conflict between Israel and Palestine, from the little I observed, there is a massive power imbalance at play in the region.